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Master Mash-up Movie Maker Matthew Vaughn Kicks Out His Latest Wacky Comic Adventure, “Argylle” – Starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Alfie the Cat

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No matter what, British director Matthew Vaughn is having a good time making movies. Besides being married to former supermodel Claudia Schiffer, he’s just seen his mega-wacky, big-budget comic spy thriller, “Argylle,” get released. It’s appeared in theaters through Universal and soon will find its way online through Apple Original Films.

Starring Bryce Dallas Howard [the “Jurassic World” franchise] as author Elly Conway and Oscar-winning actor Sam Rockwell as agent Aidan, the film folds fictional characters created by the writer into a real-world scenario led by a battalion of killer arch-spies chasing them.

The plots of Elly’s fictional books — centered on the adventures of secret agent Argylle (Henry Cavill) and his efforts to unravel a global spy syndicate — prompt a real-life spy organization to try killing Elly through deadly covert actions. That’s when the quiet life of evenings at home with her cat Alfie ends. Though the evil agency is rebuffed by Aidan, the two fall into rabbit holes of wild train rides and a global mission in order to pass on illicit secrets to a CIA underboss (Samuel L. Jackson) who can save the day.

Now this isn’t the 52-year-old creator’s first rodeo. He’s established quite a list of credits, some by adding to established franchises such as the “X-Men” or creating new ones such as “Kick-Ass” and “Kingsman.” But whatever Vaughn does, he does it with a certain flash and panache.

T2C: Meet the man who directed all these incredible movies: “Layer Cake,” “Stardust,” “Kick-Ass,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” and now, “Argylle.”

Matthew Vaughn: With “Snatch,” they wanted subtitles. I’m not joking. Seriously, the studio didn’t understand that Brad Pitt was meant to not be understood at all.

T2C: Anyway, you fought the good fight and won. That was back in the days when you were a producer alongside Guy Ritchie. Were you always keeping an eye on directing? Did you always plan to direct ultimately?

Matthew Vaughn: Directors can be a pain in the arse and are incredibly egotistical. As a producer, it was exhausting and I thought it couldn’t be that hard. So I gave it a go.

T2C: Fair enough. That led you to “Layer Cake.” Was it always the intention that you direct it?

Matthew Vaughn: Guy Ritchie was meant to direct “Layer Cake” and decided not to. So [J. J. Connolly], the author of the book, said, “Why don’t you have a go?” Then my wife [Claudia Schiffer] –thank God for her – said, “You really should have a go.” Thank God I did because I feel like I’m playing and am going to get caught out very soon. But so far, so good.

T2C: Here’s the terrifying thing. Next year marks the 20th anniversary of “Layer Cake.”

Matthew Vaughn: Yeah, it’s terrifying getting old.

T2C: What was that experience on Layer Cake” switching from producing to directing?

Matthew Vaughn: Terrifying. On the first day, I made a big mistake. I looked through the camera and saw Daniel Craig and casually went, “My God, this is the first time I’ve ever done this, looking through a film camera.” I went back down and all I saw was horror on Daniel’s face. But we got through it. It’s ultimately filmmaking. I don’t want to sound like I’m belittling it, but at the end of the day it’s a camera, a script and actors. If you do it and have passion about telling a story, it sort of looks after you.

T2C: What were the films that got you into filmmaking in the first place?

Matthew Vaughn: I could list them — talk about getting old. But the first three films in the cinema — I was like, “Oh shit, I’ve got to continue watching. They were “Star Wars,” “Superman” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” I saw them in the cinema not knowing what any of them going to be!

T2C: “Layer Cake” is an amazing film, but it’s also a bit of an outlier on your directorial CV. After that, you started moving into geek cinema, pursuing fantasy with “Stardust.” And before that, you made a couple of comic book movies: “X-Men: First Class” — and “Kick-Ass.”

Matthew Vaughn: I basically directed [“X-Men: First Class”], but the good stuff didn’t make the cut. It was bizarre because I went from “Layer Cake,” a tiny £3 million movie and suddenly Hollywood was calling up saying, “Would you like to make an X-Men movie?” I was like, “Yes.” I thought “X2” was a masterpiece. I was worried [about] stepping into Bryan Singer’s shoes. But it was a dream come true and I storyboarded the movie.

The movie ended up not being what I was going to make. I was naive and used to working in the way I produce films. “Here’s a budget, here’s a schedule, stick to it.” Hollywood doesn’t work that way at all. They go, “Here’s a budget, here’s the schedule. We pretend we’re going to do it and then we make it all up as we go along.” I didn’t know that back then. I was naïve. I was given the speech, “You’ll never work in this town again.” Yeah, and I sort of believed in that. If that’s not how Hollywood works, then I didn’t want “Stardust” to go that way. I read the book and met Neil Gaiman [its author]. I’d rather do it [my way] so I did that; [I didn’t want to disappoint Neil].

T2C: You ended up making a very successful “X-Men” movie. But what’s amazing is that, by and large, you’ve worked independently. You finance your movies yourself, as well. Is that something that developed over time?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, no, it was a habit that half came out of [producing] “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” this little movie that we made here. We knew nothing and were sort of naive, but in a good way of not realizing anything that should scare us. We made it with £900,000 which we begged, borrowed and literally stole to get the film made, but it made money. Then you get a reputation that you can make people money.

What I learned is that when you raise money, if somebody says, “Well, if it’s so good, why are you not putting in?” I was like, “Yeah, fair enough.” With “Kick-Ass,” I literally bet the house. When we broke [out] “Kick-Ass,” nobody in Hollywood wanted to make it so I took out a mortgage on the house and financed the movie. It was scary because we couldn’t get any distribution. Then, when it was finished my agent at the time said, “It’s not really intelligent.” If everybody in Hollywood says, “No, don’t make it,” that’s because it doesn’t mean they’re going to buy it — and he was right.

They all said no. Well, they [were then] showed clips of the movie after “Avatar.” I really thought I was screwed but the fans went so crazy, Hollywood decided that maybe there was something in there that the fans might like. Then they went for it.

T2C: Was “Kick-Ass” a reaction, in a way, to the trend of comic book movies?

Matthew Vaughn: It was Mark Millar [the graphic story creator of “Kick-Ass.”] He came to the premiere of “Stardust” and he pitched “Kick-Ass” to me over a martini. I’ll never forget it. He said, I’ve written a comic about a superhero with no powers. I thought, “Oh wow, that sounds cool.” And then, off we went and did it and I like the story.

T2C: It was the first time that you properly harnessed your action leanings. There’s some great action sequences. Everything that Hit Girl [Chloë Grace Moretz] does was pretty amazing. Was that a great opportunity for you to prove what you could do, as well?

Matthew Vaughn: I had no idea, but I was a big Jackie Chan fan. I was thinking action would be very gritty and thought, “No, let’s do something a little bit more fun.” It’s not easy but it’s rewarding.

T2C: That movie has got this really glorious, punky, rebellious attitude. Was that something that was a part of you that wanted to express?

Matthew Vaughn: That wasn’t in the script to be very clear.  It wasn’t in the comic. But it wasn’t an ad-lib either. Then little Chloe, read the comic at the time, and her mother came up and said, “Can we do one more take? She wants to try something?” Oh, no, but it happened. Thank God And it was in focus, one take.

T2C: One take. Amazing. With Chloe Moretz, and Aaron Taylor Johnson in that film, as well. Daniel Craig and Sienna Miller are in “Layer Cake;” Charlie Cox is in “Stardust” and Taron Egerton is in pretty much everything you’ve done. You have this incredible eye for talent, for responding to someone just as they’re about to go into the stratosphere. Tom Hardy’s in “X-Men: First Class.” Where does that come from?

Matthew Vaughn: I just use my eyes when an actor comes in and starts reading the lines. You forget that they’re auditioning, you just watch. Then I cast, simple as that. There’s a lot of actors that can’t act. They come in and then you say, “Next” and then someone brilliant comes in and you say, “You got the job.”

T2C: Sometimes that happens and sometimes it takes a while for them to come around again. Take Bryce Dallas Howard. We’ll talk about “Argylle” but Bryce Dallas Howard is in “Argylle” and she was nearly in “Stardust.” Is that right?

Matthew Vaughn: Bryce was the first actress to audition for “Stardust.” She did the best audition. I wanted to cast her immediately but the studio said “No, she’s not famous enough. She’s never going to pop.” Then a month later, she was cast in “Spider-Man 3.” But Bryce is a statement! When an actor is great, I appreciate the art, [though] I have no interest in being an acting coach. I just like to watch great actors do their stuff and just tweak it a little bit.

T2C: Moving on from “Kick-Ass” to “X-Men: First Class.” How did that come about?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, the man who said you’ll never work in this town again, watched “Kick-Ass” and, to his credit, rang me up and said, “You know what, I didn’t mean it when I said that. What I meant was that you will work in this town again.” Yeah, but one of the main reasons that I actually quit “X-Men 3” —  this is a true story and I don’t care if I’m not meant to say it —  [is that] Hollywood is really political and odd. I went into one of the executive’s offices and saw an “X-3” script and I immediately knew it was a lot fatter. I was like, “What the hell is this draft?”

“But don’t worry about it.”

I was like, “No, I’m the director and I’m worrying about this draft. Tell me what it is, please.”

I grabbed the script. It was like a crazy moment, but I opened the first page and it said, “Africa. Storm. Kids dying of no water. She creates a thunderstorm and saves all these children.”

That’s a pretty cool idea. What is this? They went, “Oh, it’s the Halle Berry script.” I went, “OK. She hasn’t signed up yet.” But this is what she wants it to be and once she signs up, we’ll throw it in the bin.

I was like, “Wow, are you going to do that to an Oscar-winning actress who plays Storm? I’m out of here.” I quit at that point. I thought, minced meat. That stayed with me and made me think Hollywood does some stuff well, but not in my style. But “First Class” was interesting because Singer wasn’t involved at first. He rang me up, “Well, Fox isn’t going to work with me,” and he went, “Don’t worry about that. They’ve changed their minds.”

I knew that they threw money at problems, so I thought maybe it would be nice to make a movie where I can think of some stuff and it can actually happen. And we only had 10 months and there was no script. Singer had come up with the idea of the ’60s and the Cuban missile crisis. I thought, “This is pretty cool. I always wanted to do a Bond.” Another story didn’t do it; it nearly got fucked. So I thought, “I’ll do it.” And it was fun, it was good. It was a challenge. I like challenges.

T2C: You had this amazing cast and got Michael Fassbender as Magneto. You had the sense that you were making your own Bond movie essentially with him.

Matthew Vaughn: Yeah. He thought so as well.

T2C: Precisely. What about your memories of shooting “X-Men: First Class” that stands out to you?

Matthew Vaughn: I think making blue people feel real and giving that emotion. It’s not easy. You’re on set and it’s dripping and you are definitely taking fantasy and trying to make it a story that you believe and relate to. That’s the thing I think about for all superheroes or fantasy: it’s got to still have humanity in it. Then you can enjoy it. That’s why I think sometimes people get it wrong because it goes so out there that you just can’t relate to it.

T2C: Weren’t you going to direct “X-Men: Days of Future Past” which was going to be a follow-up to your prequel?”

Matthew Vaughn: I was but Hollywood forgot to tell me after I wrote the damn thing that legally Bryan had directed it first. So I wasn’t mucking around Hollywood anymore. [I decided that] I’m going to go and do “Kingsman.”

T2C: Was “Kingsman” always bubbling away in the background? Where did it come from?

Matthew Vaughn: “Kingsman” literally came with Mark Millar and I in a pub and – I love you, Daniel Craig – but we were just thinking. Bond’s gotten a bit too serious. And, literally, over a few pints of Guinness in a pub called the Windsor Castle, we just came up with it and plotted the whole thing out.

We were talking about how Ian Fleming didn’t want to cast Sean Connery. So the director of “Doctor No” was like, “Fleming, give me two weeks and I will transform the Scottish big bloke into an English gentleman.” He took him to Saville Road and converted Connery into Bond. And we thought, “Well, let’s take that idea and do our own version.” So that was the kernel of the idea.

T2C: You mounted your own search for your Connery equivalent. You had Colin Firth? Did you always see Colin Firth as an action hero? He didn’t.

Matthew Vaughn: Then you didn’t see “Bridget Jones?” I thought, “He rocks that sweater and that fight with Hugh.” I’ve always really liked Colin Firth. He’s one of the sweetest men and I needed someone to play that character with warmth and a non-snobbery attitude, which I knew he could do. You could turn to the wrong actor; then you’d think “Kingsman” was out of touch. But I think Colin was pitch perfect.

T2C: How did you discover Taron Egerton? That was his first film?

Matthew Vaughn: He just walked through the door. Two other actors that I wanted to cast were Daniel Kaluuya and John Wade, they were both unknown as well. They did incredible auditions but then Taron came in and I knew he had it. All three of them actually did. But Taron was amazing and that’s why I keep working with him. He’d never been on a movie set before. It was a pretty big risk. Literally, his first day on a movie set was his first day in “Kingsman.” I had to explain to him what a boom was. But his audition was so good; he’s an effortless actor, intelligent as well.

T2C: With the insanity of “Kick-Ass” and then “Kingsman” you go for broke. You don’t hold back. You want exploding heads, you have exploding heads. You want a church massacre, you have a church massacre. Was that something that you wanted to pursue?

Matthew Vaughn: Obviously Yes! I don’t know how my mind got the idea but I remember ringing up Jane Goldman, my writing partner. We were writing the third act. So I said, “I’ve got a crazy idea. It would be really amazing if their heads exploded, but not in a ‘Scanners’ style. I’ll make it look like a beautiful sort of fireworks.” She said, “I don’t know about this.” But then I got it pre-visualized and showed it to her. She’s like, “OK, let’s go!”

T2C: What did you want to do with the sequel, “Kingsman: The Golden Circle?”

Matthew Vaughn: Well, for some people, it’s an acquired taste. For “Golden Circle,” I wante— to dial up the fun, which I did. I think my teenage son may have influenced me a bit too much. But I was watching movies again, getting too serious and I really enjoyed working with Colin and Taron. I’ve always loved America and Americana. I grew up with ’70s culture, which was coming from America, whether it was “Magnum,” “A-Team,” “Dukes of Hazzard” or “Miami Vice.”

I thought I’d love to do a “Kingsman” version of that and that’s where “The Statesman” came from – just to have a bit of fun. I don’t like boring, serious films. I like entertaining escapism, so I only make what I want to watch. Sadly, I’m making big home videos in a weird way. Home movies are probably a better way of saying it now.

T2C: There’s a lot of ongoing debate about the greatest shots in cinema history. To nominate a possible contender, it’s that scene with Elton John kicking someone in the face in slow motion in the “Kingsman 2″ [“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”] film. How the hell did that come about?

Matthew Vaughn: If you eat sausages and your guys like hot dogs, do you continue enjoying them and not know how they’re actually made?

T2C: That’s why you’re saying Elton John didn’t actually kick someone in the face?

Matthew Vaughn: I think Elton’s kicked many people in the face…

T2C: Which led to “Rocketman” [the film based on Elton John’s life starring Taron Edgerton] of course.

Matthew Vaughn: “Rocketman” was surreal because it was literally one of the greatest days of my life, with Elton playing a piano in between takes. He didn’t need any of me, or of everyone [but he asked], “What do you want to hear?” It was like having an Elton John jukebox and he was so sweet to the crew; it was pretty surreal. I mean, my whole life has been surreal, but that was one of those moments.

At the end of the day, he said to me, “I have a screenplay about my life and my music, but nobody wants to make it. Would you read it?” I was like, “Oh fuck, this has to be the world’s worst if nobody wants to make an Elton John film with his music and he’s been trying to make it for 15 years. Yeah, this is going to be a dogshit of a script.”

Welcome to Hollywood, by the way, that sums up Hollywood in all its glory, not universally of course. Everyone said “no” to it and then I read the script – literally going from the set to back home and couldn’t put it down. I was like, “What am I missing?”

Then I did some digging and [found out that] no one in Hollywood wanted to make it because they thought there was too much homosexuality and I’m like, “Whatever.” Too much drugs and, it should be a PG 13? I was like, “You can’t make an Elton John PG 13 movie.” But we did it.

T2C: You made it, but you didn’t direct it because you were going to direct “Kingman 3” at one point?

Matthew Vaughn: I actually will be doing a musical next year. I can’t talk about it. It’s taking me so long to find a musical to do because, a musical…. It’s like an action movie is only as good as the action. Or a comedy is only as good as the humor. A musical is only as good as the music. And Elton John’s catalog is pretty hard to beat. So I’m trying to mash it, at least. And I think we’ve nearly got that.

T2C: A Matthew Vaughn musical might be one hell of a thing! You were going to direct “Kingsman 3” as well. But then you ended up directing “The King’s Man,” which of course is the prequel. Why the switch?

Matthew Vaughn: I think “The King’s Man” was meant to be a TV series with the anniversary of World War One and what was going on in the world. We found what “The Kingsman” was about — the sort of aristocratic, rich people losing their children and then founding The Kingsman and giving the money to an agency to make sure war would never happen again.

I always thought that was fascinating. I think history is really important. I wanted to do something where historical events go back to the masses, making people look up characters and learn that we’ve made mistakes in the past. Let’s try and learn from them and not repeat them.

T2C: There was a change of tone as well.

Matthew Vaughn: It’s kind of a World War 1 action comedy. But the whole thing is, if you do a prequel, like you’re going to do a prequel to “Bond” or “Superman,” you don’t start with Bond being 007 or Superman flying with a cape on. They have to start somewhere different for the journey to begin. As I said, the death of Conrad is the birth of “Kingsman.” That’s why the first half was a bit more serious.

T2C: Is the “Kingsman” journey done?

Matthew Vaughn: No, we’ve got to get on it. We are working on that [“Kingsman: The Blue Blood”] at the moment but it’s a weird time to be in the movie business; we’re not making movies. Well, we are, and I am, but that’s another story. It’s a tough time but next year we will be rebooting “Kick-Ass.”

T2C: You can’t just drop something like that and expect you not to follow it up.

Matthew Vaughn: The clues are the words “reboot” and “Kick-Ass.” Imagine those two terms. “Kick-Ass” sort of changed people’s perceptions of what a superhero film was at that time. So we’re doing it again. It’s none of the characters from the other “Kick-Ass.” We’re going off on a tangent but I can’t really talk about that.

T2C: “Argylle” started off as your little lockdown movie and then grew so much.

Matthew Vaughn: It was a combination of things. There was the lock down. I was with my daughters and showed them “Romancing The Stone.” They loved it. I was like, “Oh God, I really enjoyed it again, I forgot how much I liked it.”

Then I also remembered my first successful date as a teenager was because of “Romancing the Stone.” I wanted to make a movie where that might spawn many more successful dates for an audience which, I hope, this will do. I wish you all luck when you see it. It was an odd time because when the book of “Argylle” arrived in manuscript, all this weird shit was going online saying it’s not real but underneath, it’s a real book. I couldn’t get book #1 breaking as new Intellectual Property but there aren’t many people bothering to do it at the studios. They’re learning now. This has taught me that maybe the audience does want original films.

Anyway, I asked them to only do a trailer for the first 28 minutes of the footage in the film and they did. You’ll see that even what you saw in the film isn’t quite the same as in the trailer. But we wanted to do something sort of very meta because you can’t just remake “Romancing the Stone.” You’ve got to do things differently.

I just so love the idea of what would happen if a wizard went to JK Rowling after book #3 and said, “You know what? Wizards are real. Hogwarts is real. I’m real and I’ll show you what it’s really like going on an adventure.” We thought we’d do that with spies. Elly Conway, in real life, will become the JK Rowling of spy novels. But in the film, we sort of fast-forwarded into the future.

T2C: In the film, you have Henry Cavill who plays Argylle with an amazing hairdo. But then there’s a real world component as well with Bryce Dallas Howard and Sam Rockwell. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Elly Conway.

Matthew Vaughn: I haven’t met Elly Conway. I would be emailed by her, because she actually doesn’t know what to say. I love that. She speaks for herself but she actually doesn’t like traveling and she’s playing an Elly Conway that won’t fly. She’s having to go on a train. We took her love of cats just a little bit further.

T2C: She takes a cat wherever she goes. So for a very eventful train journey, indeed.

Matthew Vaughn: That’s just the beginning. That’s the tip of the iceberg. A real spy comes into her world and she’s trying to understand why, how she thinks spies are. Sam Rockwell is not what she can imagine as what spies are. So she has to go and learn the hard way what real life spies do, compared to the cliche spies I was guilty of making up.

T2C: Was it tricky to shoot, matching up the action sequences – cutting between say, Cavill as the super agent and Rockwell, the “real” agent?

Matthew Vaughn: We actually did the whole thing twice. There’s a lot of scenes where we had to shoot everything twice and make sure it all matched so you just have to have patience.

T2C:  There’s more mad, insane stuff. Where does that come from?

Matthew Vaughn: Well, yeah, as I said, when you see the trailer, we don’t show that the whole movie is about switching off. You’re going to go on a roller coaster ride. Hang on and by the end of what you went through, you’ll actually feel good.

T2C: Talk about the cat. Matthew, who is the cat?

Matthew Vaughn: We had a cat on the first day of filming but I fired the cat because it was very expensive. A pain in the arse. I went into my daughter’s bedroom and said I’m borrowing your cat. I didn’t quite think it through. I’d have to drive to work with the cat every day. With this film, I’m now a director and a cat handler. I didn’t like cats to be very clear. I’m a dog person. but I’m a cat person for a while. The cat won me over. Chip is the real name of the cat, but he plays Alfie in the film.

T2C: He was a natural, he took to it immediately.

Matthew Vaughn: He was a good cat. He behaved and, maybe, that’s the trick — to put your own animals in because they’re relaxed and know you. They say don’t work with kids and animals. If they’re your own kid or animal, that might be the way to do it.

T2C: Is it true that Bryce Dallas Howard now has a cat just like Chip?

Matthew Vaughn: He’s got Chip’s color. As a wrap gift, I got Chip’s cousin who was just born and I gave it to her. I think the cat’s called Moose. And yeah, maybe Moose and Chip will be in the sequel.

T2C: We have this real book, “Argylle,” by Elly Conway not being read by anyone apart from the crew. And we haven’t even scratched the surface. Matthew, this film has the cat. But also, you’ve got an amazing cast. You’ve got Brian Cranston, who else is in there?

Matthew Vaughn: And Catherine O’Hara. We touched upon Henry Carville and Dua Lipa as well. Then there’s John Cena, Ariana Dubose. They’re all in there. Sam Jackson. I was like, who’s on, who’s off? Where’s the great cast? And they all did bring it to me. They’re all different. And yes, indeed. Chip is in “Argylle.” The cat steals the show!

Film: “Argylle”

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Rockwell, Henry Cavill, John Cena, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Sofia Boutella, Ariana DeBose, Catherine O’Hara, Samuel L. Jackson.

This Q&A is based on a discussion held at New York Comic Con last October. On stage in the Javits Center.

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

COUGAR HEAT — (Via Ultimate Classic Rock) John Mellencamp has a clear message to fans planning to attend his shows: behave or just stay home.The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer – known for such timeless tunes as “Hurts So Good” and “Jack & Diane” – recently hit the road for his 2024 Live and in Person tour. In a conversation with The Washington Post, Mellencamp detailed what he expects of his fans.

“I do expect etiquette inside of the theater, the same way you would at a Broadway show,” the rocker explained. “My shows are not really concerts anymore. They’re performances, and there’s a difference between a performance and a concert.”

To that end, Mellencamp demands a certain amount of decorum from his audiences.

“Look, I’m not for everyone anymore,” the singer admitted. “I’m just not. And if you want to come and scream and yell and get drunk, don’t come to my show.”

Mellencamp’s directive on manners comes after a series of notable outbursts. In March 2023, the singer told concertgoers to “keep your f—ing mouth shut,” during an acoustic portion of the show.

Last May, an audience member yelled “play the f—ing music” after Mellencamp offered criticism of the U.S.A.

”If these people don’t shut the f–k up I’m just going to leave, OK?” Mellencamp told the crowd. “Because I’m not used to this crap. Look, guys, if I wanted to play in this type of drunken environment, I’d play outside or I’d play in an arena.”

Then, last month, things reached another cantankerous height. At a show in Toledo, Ohio, Mellencamp became outraged at a heckler in the crowd who told him to “play some music.”

“What do you think I’ve been doing, you c–ksu–er?” the rocker responded. “Here’s the thing, man. You don’t know me. You don’t f—ing know me. Hey Joe, find this guy and let me see him after the show.”

Mellencamp later stormed off the stage, seemingly cutting the performance short. However he eventually returned to play a few more songs.

I am a fan of his music and his art, but I’ve negative stories about him for decades. Tommy Mottola used to manage him, then Randy Hoffman and there’s a long list of people who will NOT work for him. Great music though; from the heart.

Mottola in his memoir said Mellencamp was the type of person who if he won  million dollars, would fume why it wasn’t two-million! I know people like that!

“Human Wheels” is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.

SHORT TAKES — Mixed reviews for The Outsiders on Broadway which opened last week in NYC. Angelina Jolie is one of the producers. It’s a great book by S.E. Hinton and even though Theatermania panned Coppola’s movie it stills stands as a classic. Check out their review: https://www.theatermania.com/news/review-the-outsiders-becomes-a-soggy-broadway-musical_1736986/Showbiz 411’s Roger Friedman interviewed Woody Allen for The Observer ten years ago. His just-out, new interview with Allen is a classic. Take a read: https://www.showbiz411.com/2024/04/17/exclusive-woody-allen-on-marriage-kids-his-great-films-influence-on-movie-making-writing-a-novel-epstein-and-not-retiring … If a new Woody-interview wasn’t enough, Tatiana Siegel in Variety touts the new films coming from ageless auteurs Spielberg; Scorsese; Scott; Coppola; and 93-year old Clint Eastwood. Breathtaking for sure. Take a read: https://variety.com/2024/film/news/martin-scorsese-frank-sinatra-biopic-dicaprio-jennifer-lawrence-1235973769/

Micky Dolenz and Alice Cooper at Coopstock -photo by Valerie La Rue

Micky Dolenz joined in with Alice Cooper for “School’s Out” at Coopstock last weekend in Arizona. Coopstock is Cooper’s annual charity event … Director Quentin Tarantino abruptly dropped plans for his last movie The Movie Critic; which was to star Brad Pitt  …

CBS, which inexplicably cut the Billy Joel at the Garden special 1/2-hour too early last weekend (and during Joel playing his signature “Piano Man” no less) gets a repeat tonight … And, remember the Sullivan Street Playhouse where The Fantasticks ran? Check this out: https://www.villagepreservation.org/2012/01/13/sullivan-street-playhouse-gone-but-not-forgotten/ … RIP Dickey Betts … Happy Bday Marc Eliot!
NAMES IN THE NEWS — Dan Zelinski; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; David Letterman; Robert Morton; Janice Zegers; Jane Rosenthal; Frankie Crocker; Deb Caponetta; Jimmy Fallon; Kelsey Ledbetter; Chuck Scarborough; Mark Bego; Kent and Laura Denmark; Bruce Haring; Greg Evans; David Kramer; Joe Malone; Charley Crespo; Jodi Ritzen; Tone Scott; Anthony Noto; and BELLA!
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G.H. Harding

LET IT BE AGAIN — (Via SHOWBIZ 411) I told you yesterday the Beatles are releasing a restored version of “Let it Be,” the film, on Disney Plus. Peter Jackson, who made the “Get Back” series, did the work with his lab of mad scientists. “Let it Be” will begin streaming on May 8th.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg shot all the footage in 1969 and then made the final film. It played in theaters briefly, then disappeared. The rumor always was that Paul McCartney didn’t like the film. But when Jackson released “Get Back,” those reasons didn’t make sense.

Now the general public will see the film. (I saw it back in the day.) It should be exciting.

“Let It Be” contains footage not featured in the “Get Back” docuseries, bringing viewers into the studio and onto Apple Corps’ London rooftop in January 1969 as The Beatles, joined by Billy Preston, write and record their GRAMMY Award®-winning album Let It Be, with its Academy Award®-winning title song, and perform live for the final time as a group.

Michael Lindsay-Hogg

Michael Lindsay-Hogg says, “’How often do you get to see artists of this stature working together to make what they hear in their heads into songs. And then you get to the roof and you see their excitement, camaraderie and sheer joy in playing together again as a group” …“I was knocked out by what Peter was able to do with ‘Get Back,’ using all the footage I’d shot 50 years previously.”

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Michael’s movie, ‘Let It Be,’ has been restored and is finally being re-released after being unavailable for decades,” says Peter Jackson. “Over three parts, we showed Michael and The Beatles filming a groundbreaking new documentary, and ‘Let It Be’ is that documentary – the movie they released in 1970.”…“I now think of it all as one epic story, finally completed after five decades. The two projects support and enhance each other: ‘Let It Be’ is the climax of ‘Get Back,’ while ‘Get Back’ provides a vital missing context for ‘Let It Be.’

As much as I liked the Peter Jackson-version, the original still burns in my head. I well remember when it came out – with a greatphoto book I still have on my shelf. When all the chatter began about how much fun they really had come out; I sort of didn’t believe it. Face it, if the Fab Four didn’t like Hogg’s version back then … it never would have come out.

I think there was a backlash of sorts and that’s why the original is finally coming out again, though Jackson ‘s involvement is curious. The first time in 50 years no less!  If you want to see it unvarnished and how it really was … watch it.

DON IS BACK — (Via Deadline) Don Johnson is set to star opposite Joshua Jackson in Dr. Odyssey, a new ABC drama series from Ryan Murphy, which is targeting a fall launch. It hails from 20th Television in association with Ryan Murphy Television.

As is the case with any Ryan Murphy series, no details about the premise are being revealed. As the title suggests, Dr. Odyssey is believed to be a medical procedural. According to sources, it is set on a cruise ship.

Details about Johnson’s character are being kept under wraps.

Dr. Odyssey is written, and executive produced by Murphy, Jon Robin Baitz and Joe Baken. Paris Barclay is directing and executive producing. Eric Paquette, Alexis Martin Woodall, Eric Kovtun, Scott Robertson and Nissa Diederich also executive produce alongside Jackson.

Johnson is known for his roles as Det. Sonny Crockett on the classic 1980s NBC series Miami Vice and as the title character in the 1996 CBS series Nash Bridges, which he also reprised in the 2021 Nash Bridges movie for USA. Recent credits include the Emmy-winning HBO limited series Watchmen, Rian Johnson’s Knives Out and the Book Club feature franchise. He has coming up Book Club 2: The Next Chapter and Rebel Ridge.

Tokyo Vice

SHORT TAKES — Watched the second season of MAX’s Tokyo Vice-toplining Ansel Elgort; Ken Watanabe and Rachel Keller. Was a great run, though the ending seemed somewhat somber. Sure the bad-guy was offed, but it was his wife who did the most damage. Great show. Michael Mann is one of the Executive Producers and you can see his hands on everything … Felix Cavaliere and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17 …

(Via Deadline) Financier and producer Participant is shuttering after 20 years. Founder Jeff Skoll alerted staff at 10:30 a.m. PT on Tuesday, Deadline has confirmed. Sources say Skoll did an audit of the company and wanted to pivot from entertainment. We understand that most of the 100-person staff is being let go except for core employees who will settle out remaining productions and oversee outstanding commitments to the catalog. Participant’s m.o. was to bring content to the world that was socially conscious, read its Oscar Best Picture winners Spotlight from Open Road and Universal’s Green Book, as well as DreamWorks’ Oscar winner Lincoln. All in, Participant counts 135 films, five series, 21 Oscars — including the two Best Pictures, four Best Documentaries and two Best International Features — 18 Primetime Emmys and north of $3.3 billion in global box office

Pam Anderson joins Liam Neeson in a Naked Gun re-boot? Yes indeed …

Ripley

Steve Zaillian’s Ripley on Netflix is a staggeringly spellbinding take on Ripley; the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Not quite the often comedic-romp that was Matt Damon’s take, but rather a very stylish re-construction. Michael Scott as Ripley is pretty awesome and shot in black-and-white, the images are stunning. After the first few episodes that meandered a bit, I’m definitely into it. Very much recommended.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — John Boulos; Manny’s; Al Roker; Roger Friedman; Roy Trakin; Alec Baldwin; Ken Sharp; Surf Ballroom; My Father’s Place; Eppy; Chuck Pulin; Joel Diamond; Billy Amato; Ray Free; Al Teller; Joel Diamond; Robey; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Glenn Friscia; and SADIE!

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Kjersti Long (David Kaptein)

G.H. Harding

GO LONG —- We’ve spoken before of 17-year-old Kjersti Long – on Origin Entertainment/ModSquad (ADA) Records. Her latest single “Sad Song” has become a digital-hit and a new album (her second) is in the works.

She’ll also be in NYC for June’s Tribeca Festival and a prominent agency is stepping up to rep her and her play Relative Space is prepping for an opening in the West End.

Said NEW HD’s Zach Martin: “Kjersti Long, at just 17, stands as a beacon of talent and ambition in the music industry. Her journey from a prodigious debut at the tender age of 11 with the album “Stronger Than You Think I Am” on Broadway Records to becoming a significant influencer on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, Kjersti’s career trajectory is nothing short of remarkable​​. Her engagement with her fans and the music community through platforms like Instagram and TikTok, where she has garnered over 50 million views and more than 160,000 new followers, underscores her magnetic appeal and the resonant connection she forges through her music​​.”

She also has a song on the new Vanessa Williams album, “Legs.” Williams’ official video will be out April 26, but here’s an update on her from LifeMinute TV:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD-Okb_T8CM

www.kjerstilong.com


RASCAL-ING AROUND —
(Via Forgotten Hits) Look for a new Rascals box set coming out May 31st.

The 7-disc set encompasses their entire recorded output with Atlantic Records, 1965 – 1971, including mono and stereo copies of their albums, special singles mixes and some previously unreleased tracks.  (I remember shelling out big bucks for an earlier CD edition of this set … but I’ve gotta tell you, this one has got the COOLEST looking cover!!!).

“The Rascals:  It’s Wonderful: The Complete Atlantic Studio Recordings features 152 remastered songs, including 14 previously unreleased tracks. The first four albums are presented in both stereo and mono, along with significant single edits and foreign language versions. The collection includes a 60-page booklet with detailed notes and rare illustrations from The Rascals archives.

Amazon’s got it for $69.99 (I paid 2 ½ times that much way back when for the original!) so pre-order now.  This is quite the collection!

Interesting that this box set is from the UK-based Cherry Red Records. Founded by Iain McNay in 1978, Cherry Red Records has continued to uphold the same fiercely independent values since day one. Check them out here: https://www.cherryred.co.uk/about

And don’t forget about Felix Cavaliere and Gene Cornish and The Rascals at SONY Hall on May 17.

https://www.amazon.com/Complete-Atlantic-Recordings-Rascals/dp/B0CZ3NHLGG?crid=3S8UG8TZCIC3M&dib=eyJ2IjoiMSJ9.fcz-QxVsrVNGCoS-EbSPkg.htVhtZLFLUN8n9NrR1H-6rJi5fsjLvQexjIPS6c2Ges&dib_tag=se&keywords=B0CZ3NHLGG&qid=1712320481&s=music&

Micky Dolenz at Troubadour (Stevo Rood)

SHORT TAKES — Check out Tone Scott’s review of Micky Dolenz at LA’s Troubadour in Goldmine: https://www.goldminemag.com/columns/micky-dolenz-songs-and-stories-raises-the-roof-off-the-troubadour-all-for-make-a-wish#gid=ci02dac725a00025c5&pid=thumbnail-3

RIP Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola at 87. Years ago, I was at a screening of Roman Coppola’s A Glimpse Inside the Mind Of Charles Swan with Charlie Sheen. I loved the movie and at a post-screening event, I met Francis Ford Coppola, who could not have been more approachable.

He invited me to sit at his table with his wife Eleanor. Both were terrific. She’ll be much-missed by the film community as well. From Deadline: https://deadline.com/2024/04/eleanor-coppola-dead-hearts-of-darkness-francis-coppola-wife-1235883537/Happy Bday Brit Brashear.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Melinda Newman; Barry Fisch; Toby Rasmussen; Roy Trakin; Joel Diamond; Fred Armisen; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Richie Kaczor; Jim Burgess; Tom Scott; Steve Walter; Dan Zelinski; Herb Alpert; Hubert Laws; Eppy; Craig Newman; Jane Blunkell; John Billings; Lora Evans; Andrew Sandoval; Chris Carter; Wen Fernandez; and ZIGGY!

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OJ DOA — Perhaps the Drudge Report (yes, the Drudge Report) had the most fitting headline: Cancer Murders OJ.

Yesterday’s news came as a huge surprise at 11:00 AM. For me, firstly, I couldn’t quite believe it was almost 30 years since that trial. When the verdict came in, I was at The Conservatory restaurant in the long-gone, much missed Mayflower Hotel. It was packed and when the verdict was announced there was a minute or two of dead-silence, then gasps. One of the most surreal moments I’ve ever experienced.

I wasn’t a huge sports fan -never have been- but I knew a lot about OJ. Face it, he was an icon And when the murders happened; the Bronco-chase; and trial … it was just extraordinary. His rise and fall was an amazing tale. It was also a major story for all the entertainment outlets. Journalists essentially moved to LA for the 9-month trial. It was, to my mind, the first trial of its kind.

CNN showed some of the reactions from then: then audience reaction at the Oprah Winfrey show was a mixed bag. Some cheered as Winfrey stood stone-faced. The reaction of OJ’s lawyers were interesting too; Robert Khardashian looked shell-shocked, while Cochran and Robert Shapiro  hugged OJ.

As Wolf Bltizer just said: these are moments one will never forget.

We think we know what happened … but now, we’ll never know for sure. An american tragedy for sure.

YES Photo by Gottlieb Bros

YES’ PURPLE — (via Ultimate Classic Rock) Deep Purple and Yes will team up for a North American summer tour.

The trek begins on Aug. 14 in Hollywood, Florida, and concludes on Sept. 8 in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday.

Deep Purple is in the midst of their 1 More Time tour and simultaneously celebrating 50 years of “Smoke on the Water” (52 years now, to be exact). The band recently released a super deluxe edition of its landmark album Machine Head, which includes classics such as “Smoke on the Water,” “Highway Star” and “Space Truckin’.”

Yes, meanwhile, will deliver a career-spanning set comprising material through their latest album, 2023’s Mirror to the Sky. The prog legends are also releasing an expanded anniversary box set of their 1994 album Talk next month.

52 years of “Smoke On The Water.” A classic if there ever was one. Every time I hear it on the radio, I start singing along. Talk about staying power! I saw Yes years ago and it was quite the show; with Chris Squire too.

There are a slew of legacy artists out for the summer and deservedly so. They may not generate the ink of a Beyonce or Jennifer Lopez, but their impact is still there.

Hubert Laws

SHORT TAKES — CTI Records. Remember them? It was producer Creed Taylor’s boutique label which released some of the most dynamic and interesting jazz-records in the 70’s and 80’s (SONY owns them now). From Airto to Milt Jackson; Deodato; Bob James; Jim Hall and Hubert Laws, the music was just terrific. Originally distributed by Herb Alpert’s A&M Records, they went independent and continued with some of the best jazz recordings ever. Even before you listened to the music, all the albums had a deluxe-cover; with some startling images. Check this piece out about their album covers from Medium: https://medium.com/@slishpogodi/cti-records-the-best-album-covers-cdac2e16c534 … 50 years of People Magazine. Rumors spread last year that the weekly was on its last legs.

Mia Farrow

Their first issue was in 1974 with Mia Farrow on the cover …

David Kramer

Director David Kramer won for ‘Best Documentary’ at last week’s NYFF event for his Jimi Hendrix: The Documentary. Congratulations

Coopstock

Coopstock is this weekend in Mesa, Arizona. Guests include Micky Dolenz; REO’s Kevin Cronin; Orianthi; Patrick Warburton; and of course, Alice Cooper himself … Hard to believe that director Todd Phillips, who directed The Hangover, did the first Joker movie with Joaquin Phoenix. It was just startling in every way and now the follow-up is about to come out with Phoenix and Lady Gaga; introduced as Harley Quinn. One trade already termed it a jukebox musical. Stylish for sure it looks just sensational and is one of the best trailers I’ve seen in quite some time. Here’s it is: https://variety.com/2024/film/news/joker-2-trailer-joaquin-phoenix-lady-gaga-1235957692/
… Here’s the trailer of Disney+’s Beach Boys doc.  Directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_Rspu3Xoi4 …  And, this week’s New York Magazine cover heralds the history of NYC through its restaurants. I was ready to see Tortilla Flats; La Cote Basque; Schraffts; Mortimers; Trader Vic’s; and Fontana Di Trevi. Turns out, it’s memories from people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who worked at The Coffee Shop and Keith McNally, who shucked oysters at One Fifth. Honestly, I expected a bit more depth. Great idea; lousy execution.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Toni Basil; Mark Bego; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Mitch Dolan; Barry Nolan; Robert Lamm; Jacqueline Boyd; Wayne Avers; Tyorne Biljan; Michelle Toscas; Fred Zarr; Abbe Rosenfeld; Shep Pettibone; Tony Darrow; Robert Funaro; Angel Mastrogiorgio; Ellen Smith; Howard Bloom; Jane Berk; Jack Cunningham; and CHIP.

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RINGO’S COUNTRY — (Via Forbes) Ringo Starr had a very busy 2023. He released a new EP, toured, and even reunited with Paul McCartney to produce one last Beatles single, “Now and Then.” One might assume that after so much activity, the 83-year-old might take some time off, but according to the musician himself, he’s still hard at work–and trying something new.

In a video he posted to X (formerly Twitter), Starr shared some very exciting news for his fans. It seems that he’s back in the studio working on new music. That would be enough to tantalize his still-massive following, but the kind of music he’s making is what caught the attention of many.

Starr shared in his video that he was “gonna do a country EP, but as things are unfolding, it’s probably going to be like a real CD—ten tracks.” He then laughed a bit to himself, adding, “Can you believe it? I haven’t done one of them in a long time.”

The beloved drummer last released a full-length album of original material in 2019 when What’s My Name arrived. That set was a minor commercial success, peaking at No. 99 in his home country of the U.K. and No. 127 in the U.S., where he remains very popular to this day.

Since his last album, Starr has been on a streak, releasing a number of EPs, or shorter collections. In the five years since What’s My Name, the drummer has dropped four EPs, as well as a number of singles, live collections, and more. He most recently returned with Rewind Forward, which even saw him collaborating with McCartney again.

For the moment, there doesn’t seem to be a timetable for when fans may get to hear Starr’s take on country. While he may be working on the material, there’s no telling what exactly it will sound like or when he’ll decide to release something.

In addition to a country collection, Starr also detailed yet another project he’s working on. The former Beatle and songwriter and producer Linda Perry have collaborated on another EP, titled Crooked Boy. That set seems to be his focus at the moment, and it will likely be released before any country tunes. About his friend and producer, Starr commented, “She wrote the songs for me. She produced them. She’s a beauty, so musical,” and said that she “has a great vibe.”

Jackie Chan

CHAN ALERT — (Via Deadline) Jackie Chan has reassured fans that he is in good health after a picture of him with gray hair and a beard sparked concerns for his well-being.

The Rush Hour, Shanghai Noon, and Tuxedo star turned 70 over the weekend and marked the occasion with a post on Instagram in which he addressed health fears.

“Not so long ago, a lot of friends saw some recent photos of me on the internet, and they were all concerned about my health,” Chan said.

“I want to take this opportunity to let everyone know, don’t worry! It’s just a character appearance for my latest movie. The character requires me to have white hair, white beard and look old.”

The viral photos were from an event where Chan was on stage with a microphone. He was wearing glasses and clutching papers.

Last November, Chan was cast in a new Karate Kid movie. He will play Mr. Han, the kung fu master who helped Jaden Smith fend off bullies in Sony’s 2010 Karate Kid remake.

In his Instagram message, the Hong Kong actor said he has cherished every moment of his 62 years in the entertainment industry. “All I can say is: I love making movies and I love you all,” Chan said.

SHORT TAKES — Last week were several top-secret screenings for the new Francis Ford Coppola movie Megalopolis. Per an article in yesterday’s Hollywood Reporter, many attendees found it impossible to position. I haven’t seen it, but how can you deny the director’s importance? That said, I knew one person who went to one of the screenings and he has yet to render an opinion on it. Check out the Reporter piece: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/megalopolis-francis-ford-coppola-challenges-distribution-1235867556/

Benson Boone

Just caught Benson Boone on Tuesday’s Today Show, performing his song “Beautiful Things.” The 21-year-old reminded me of Tony Manero (Saturday Night Fever) during the short interview with Savannah, Hoda and Carson, but the song was pretty good. He gained prominence through his work on Tik Tok and Dan Reynolds’s acknowledgement – from Imagine Dragons. Check him out here: https://www.bensonboone.com/

Micky Dolenz at the Troubadour

Here’s one more great shot of Micky Dolenz’s from his triumphant show at LA’s Troubadour

People of a certain age will well recall John Hughes’ 1985 masterpiece The Breakfast Club. Certain things age well … others don’t. Check out Molly Ringwald’s take on that movie now from Deadline: https://deadline.com/2024/04/molly-ringwald-the-breakfast-club-elements-havent-aged-well-judd-nelson-character-1235877597/comment-page-2/#comments  … Anybody out there remember Lou O’Neill at the NewYork Post back in the day? …

Savannah Sellers

Can’t see to find Chloe Melas on Today anymore. Sad, but she clearly not the right move.; their Savannah Sellers is a much, much better fit …

Watched the Gershwin Awards honoring Elton John and Bernie Taupin on PBS. Brandi Carlisle performing “Madman Across The Water” is just amazing. Great show. Congratulations … More Sly Stallone news. All I can say is, I am NOT surprised: https://deadline.com/2024/04/tulsa-king-casting-director-quits-sylvester-stallone-accused-criticizing-background-actors-1235878860/ … Here’s the trailer for the biopic on Amy Winehouse from Focus Features. Looks pretty good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYzIOBwyhIU  … Happy Bday Robin Platzer!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Terry Jastrow; Dina Pitenis; Mark Bego; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Roy Trakin; Len Berman; Felix Cavaliere; Jane Blunkell; Pete Bennett; May Pang; Ken Dashow; Craig Newman; Jeffrey Sherman; Stu Fine; Mitch Kanner; Eppy; Al Steckler; Dan Richter; Tony King; Derek Taylor; Tyrone Bijan; Michelle Toscas; and ZIGGY!

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